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FCC Warns of ‘Cyber Snoops’

data connectionAfter reports about incidents with Google’s Street View cars mistakenly gathering personal data submitted over WiFi networks, hackers accessing email addresses of more than 100,000 iPad owners, and wireless and WiFi networks making consumers’ private data accessible, the Federal Communications Commission is now warning members of the public about how easily their information can be stolen and compromised.

FCC Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Joel Gurin posted a blog last Friday about these breaches that have led the agency to ramp up its cybersecurity efforts.

“Although the Google and AT&T incidents are different kinds of intrusions, each is worrisome in its own way and has a different remedy, Gurin wrote.

The iPad incident appears to be a classic security breach and is, according to Gurin, exactly the kind of incident that has led the FCC to focus on cybersecurity.

“Our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is now addressing cyber security as a high priority,” he wrote. “The FCC’s mission is to ensure that broadband networks are safe and secure, and we’re committed to working with all stakeholders to prevent problems like this in the future.”

The case of Google’s collection of personal information sent over WiFi, whether intentional or not, clearly infringes on consumer privacy, and serves as a warning for everyone to take precaution when using public or open networks, Gurin wrote.

“Here, there are some immediate remedies,” he wrote. “The Google incident is a reminder that ‘open’ WiFi networks – those that are not encrypted – are all too vulnerable to cyber snooping.”

To help consumers and their information stay safe, the FCC has published a guide to wireless safety, which among many other things, encourages the use of encryption to scramble communications over the network and using a firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

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